185th Will Deploy to Southwest Asia Published June 3, 2008 By Sioux City Journal 02/03/08 -- SIOUX CITY -- About 150 members of the 185th Air Refueling Wing are headed to Southwest Asia later this spring, the unit commander, Col Brian Miller said Monday. Col. Miller said 185th personnel and tankers would provide aerial refueling in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other details will be provided at a later date. Last year the 185th transitioned from KC-135E Stratotankers to newer KC-135R models, equipped with larger, more fuel-efficient engines that allow the unit to serve wherever needed. In 2002 the base began converting from F-16 fighter jets to tankers. Miller, 48, assumed command of the 185th in August, succeeding Col. John Janson, who retired. Miller, a Sioux City native who first joined the 185th as a mechanic in 1980, most recently served as the operations group commander. A former F-16 pilot, Miller joked Monday he initially handled the conversion to a refueling wing "about as well as a four-year-old getting a candy bar yanked away from him." "... I couldn't have been more wrong," he said. "The conversion to the tankers is the best thing that could have happened to the 185th." While the demand for aerial refueling tankers continues to grow, military planners are contemplating large reductions in Air National Guard fighter jets, he said. By some estimates, the number could be cut in half over the next 10 years. "The 185th is going to be in tankers for a long, long time," Miller said. In his presentation, the Commander highlighted the 185th's contributions to the local economy. The base, which has 377 full-time military members and 635 traditional Guard members, has an annual payroll of nearly $40 million. Last year the 185th's total economic impact was estimated at $63.7 million, which includes more than $15 million the base spent in the region and the value of additional jobs it indirectly created. In addition, state and federal tuition assistance programs for 185th members annually pours more than $3 million into area universities and colleges, he noted. "We'd like to think we're a good partner with the money we're putting into the Siouxland area," Miller said.